Warren mayor's warning of environmental scandal in Macomb County rankles officials

- The war of words continues after Warren Mayor Jim Fouts called the construction of berms on an old landfill at  Freedom Hill an environmental hazard

"It's a serious situation and it was caused by either misfeasance or malfeasance I'm not sure what," he said.

According to an email from civil engineering firm AEW dated Friday Nov.18, the berms caused an outbreak of leachates or toxic liquid from the landfill, to leak not too far from the Red Run Drain.

Dirt used to build the berms covered about 40 of 120 methane vents and there are high readings of the gas along the west property line.

"There are three places on the west side that I believe the methane gas is so high that it would be dangerous and if someone lit a match it could start an explosion," Fouts said.

FOX 2: "Are there any environmental public health concerns with that berm being constructed?"

"No there is not," said Mark Deldin.

Deldin, the Macomb County deputy executive, says the county contacted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality after civil engineers found one elevated methane reading a few weeks ago.

And as for the leachates, he said they are not at a dangerous level.

"They are not close to contaminating  the drinking water," Deldin said. "And that is what prompted all of this hype or hysteria is the fact the mayor said this could be a mini-Flint."

That set off a war of words with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel who slammed the mayor's comments.

"That is unacceptable," Hackel said earlier this week.

The mayor of Sterling Heights where Freedom Hill is located, also took Fouts to task calling his comments reckless and irresponsible.

"He was alarming people, frightening people," said Mayor Michael Taylor. "Comparing a relatively minor situation to the city of Flint and I thought it was really uncalled for, and I was disappointed in it."  

But Fouts claims he spoke with experts who say they never would've approved the berm project at Freedom Hill, because of the risks.

"Another question for Mr. Hackel is who approved this site," Fouts said. "And who approved the idea of taking excavated materials and putting it on a land fill?"

"We obtained soil erosion permits from the city of Sterling Heights so with that, we allowed the dirt to come in," Deldin said.

FOX 2: Do you know if that soil erosion permit if the work that's being done fits the scope of that soil erosion permit?

"No I don't have details on that, I don't have details on if the work being done by the county if the permit was required for that work, or if they have done that work yet." Taylor said. "All I do know is that the city of sterling heights is not going to allow any improper or illegal dumping and if we knew anything about it, we would stop it."

FOX 2 received this statement from MDEQ:

"The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is working with local officials and consultants to repair damage done at Freedom Hill Park during recent efforts to construct a berm intended to block automotive headlights from shining into nearby homes. We are monitoring the situation and will continue to do so until all outstanding issues are resolved."

Repairs could cost at least a million dollars but Macomb County officials say that contractors will cover the cost.

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